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Comprehensive and Collision Insurance Explained

5 min. read

When you buy car insurance, you do it so you can rest easy knowing you’re covered out on the road, no matter what comes your way. And, certainly, your state’s required coverage will help you foot the bill if you cause property damage or hurt someone. But the bare minimum required by your state doesn’t do a lot to protect your car. That’s where comprehensive and collision insurance come in. 

Collision vs. comprehensive coverage

Collision and comprehensive are additional coverage types you can add on to your policy to protect you on and off the road. In fact, you can’t say your car has full coverage without them. 

Collision coverage helps you pay for damage to your car if you (you guessed it) get into a collision. Comprehensive coverage protects your car when you’re not behind the wheel, covering you against things like theft or a tree branch falling on your vehicle. 

If you only bought the state-required coverage for your vehicle, you’re driving around without either of these protections. Your lender may have required that you buy one or both of these protections to safeguard their investment in your vehicle, but it’s important to check your policy. If you don’t have collision and comprehensive coverage, you could be left footing a hefty bill if your car gets totaled in an accident you cause or a thief nabs it in the night. 

What is collision insurance?

Collision insurance kicks in when you collide with something. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) defines this protection as one that pays for car damage “as a result of your auto colliding with an object, such as another car or a tree.” Basically, if you run into something, you’re at-fault, and your car gets damaged, your collision coverage helps with the auto repair bill. (If another driver causes the accident that damages your car, your insurer will most likely first go through their coverage to get your car repaired.) 

Usually, you pick a collision insurance deductible between $250 and $1,000. The higher your deductible, the more affordable your premiums (the amount you pay each month or year for your coverage). 

Still wondering if you need collision coverage? The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) has data on how likely it is that your car type will need collision coverage, the average size of a claim for your car type, and more in this collision coverage loss facts writeup. Or simply consider that the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that 73% of drivers don’t want to be on the road without this protection. 

What is comprehensive insurance?

With collision coverage, you can rest a little easier in the driver’s seat. But what happens to your car when you park it and walk away? An auto accident isn’t the only thing that can compromise your investment in your vehicle. That’s where comprehensive coverage comes in. 

Comprehensive insurance steps in when something happens to your car that isn’t a collision. With this coverage, you get reimbursed for losses that occur if your car is stolen or damaged by a wide range of things. Check your policy for specifics, but most comprehensive policies cover you if your car gets damaged by:

  • Fire
  • Hail
  • Falling objects (like a tree limb)
  • Vandalism
  • A bird

Comprehensive coverage may also help you replace your windshield if it gets cracked, although some insurers require separate glass coverage for that. Check your policy to see exactly what’s covered. 

Just like collision coverage, the cost of your comprehensive coverage depends on your deductible. Generally, comprehensive deductibles range from $100 to $500. Again, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums. 

The III reports that 77% of insured drivers choose this coverage. And while they also report frequency of comprehensive claims and their severity are only about half that of collision coverage, the average severity of a comprehensive claim in 2017 was still over $1,800. Add this insurance to your policy and you only have to pay your deductible if your car is stolen or damaged by a covered cause. 

How much do collision and comprehensive coverage cost?

As with all car insurance, it depends on your state, your car, your age, your driving history, and more. (Want more info? We’ve got a guide to help you understand car insurance rates.) But to give you a ballpark idea: Studies we’ve done in partnership with Quadrant Information Services, the premier agency for insurance rate analysis, show that adding collision and comprehensive with a $500 deductible raises rates by 130% on average (for drivers age 23 to 38). So if you’re paying around $900 per year for insurance, adding collision and comprehensive could increase your premium up to about $1,900.

Keep in mind, that the higher your deductible is the lower your premiums will be. You can still get cheap car insurance that includes comprehensive and collision coverage.  

Do I need collision and comprehensive insurance?

Technically, no. Let’s take collision coverage as an example. If you’re fine paying for any damages to your car that you cause — whether you run into another vehicle or your neighbor’s mailbox — you can go without this protection. But the III reports that the average cost of a collision coverage claim was just shy of $3,500 in 2017. And in that same report, they show that if you have a newer car (model year 2015-2017), that cost rises to over $5,500. Both the frequency and covered cost of collision claims have also been on the rise lately. So if you don’t want to be stuck with a car repair bill in the thousands of dollars, collision coverage is for you. 

Similarly, if you’re okay paying out-of-pocket to replace your car if it gets stolen, you can skip comprehensive coverage. But if that sounds daunting, consider adding this protection to your policy. 

It’s worth noting that although most drivers choose comprehensive and collision coverage, there might be some cases where you truly don’t need it. For example, if your car is only worth a few thousand, the cost of coverage could very well exceed your car’s value. 

Before buying collision and comprehensive coverage, consider:

  • Your car’s value
  • The likelihood of car theft in your area
  • The likelihood of natural disaster in your area
  • The likelihood you’ll get into a collision

If you only rarely drive your vehicle, park it safely in a locked garage each night, and don’t live near a fire zone, for example, skipping comprehensive and collision coverage might be right for you. If you’re not sure whether or not you should add these protections, talk to a local insurance agent. 

What’s Next?

  • We’ve gathered everything you need to know about car insurance, from understanding your coverage needs to choosing a provider and picking a deductible. Check out our complete car insurance buyer’s guide to learn more.
  • It’s essential to compare quotes when shopping for car insurance. Read our guide on what to expect when you get a quote from an insurance provider. 
  • Ready to start shopping? We compiled a list of the best auto insurance companies to get you started.

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